On the issues: Waldoboro Select Board candidate Abden Simmons

Tue, 06/01/2021 - 8:45am

    Five individuals are vying for two open Waldoboro select board seats at the June 8 municipal election: Russell Brazier Jr., Seth Hall, Kevin Court, Abden Simmons and William Pratt. Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region.

    Please provide a concise biography of yourself.

    I'm a life long resident of Waldoboro. I make my living as a clammer, elver fisherman and with my wife, April own A&A Shellfish a small business located in Waldoboro.

    For the last six years I have been honored to serve on the Select Board. I have also served on the Waldoboro Shellfish Committee for over 20 years.

    In 2016, I was elected to the state legislature for one term, it was an eye opening experience that was educational and rewarding. Just recently I was appointed to the Marine Resources Advisory Council by the Governor.

    What are the three most pressing issues facing Waldoboro today and how would you like to see them resolved?

    The Town’s potential partnership with Maine Health to construct a medical arts facility and our community center on town owned property is the next big project on the horizon. This public-private partnership is key to moving Waldoboro forward and taking advantage of cost savings by sharing space and working together with a trusted community organization to provide needed services to our residents.

    Ensuring the health and sustainability of the Medomak River and its wild fisheries not only for the 150 shellfish harvesters and countless other fishermen whose livelihood is the Medomak, but also the hundreds of residents who use our river as a source of recreation. The Medomak is our greatest natural resource, and a huge economic driver for our community. It's health and sustainability is key to our success.

    We need to continue with our community forums that started in 2019. The forums highlighted issues that we need to address from education/training, jobs, poverty, and substance abuse to the many resources that our Town has. We need to keep our residents engaged and set realistic goals to begin to address these issues. Our Community Navigator Program came out of these forums and I am proud to have been part of the Select Board that began this program. Our Navigator helps residents find the resources they need if it's connecting people with help with financial issues, food needs, housing issues and many other available services that help all of our residents from our youngest to our seniors.

    How will you protect taxpayers as you shape and govern a municipal budget and juggle various interests that request municipal funding through the year?

    We have a very open budget process that I am proud to be a part of. The Town Manager and Finance Director keep the Select Board and Budget Committee well informed and working all year on budget matters, it's not just a group that meets during budget time. We have restructured our debt to take advantage of low interest rates, we have also developed a capital plan that goes out 20+ years so we know when and what needs to replaced.

    In 2020 we reduced our budget anticipating the potential effects of COVID, and again in 2021 we remained fiscally conservative in preparing the budget the voters will consider on June 8. We have worked hard to build our reserve fund and preserve our services.

    We need to be prepared as we head into our 2022 budget process, the expected increases to the percentage of revenue sharing we get from the state and the revenue from the American Rescue Plan are reasons to be optimistic, but we still need to balance that with the possibility of increased inflation, that affects a Town budget just like it affects a family budget.

    Requests for funding are always carefully considered by our group, many hard decisions had to be made in 2020 and even some in 2021, but the department heads are very responsible and understand the needs of the town as a whole. We met with a few different community organizations, and even revisited a request and returned it to the funding they had received in the 2019 budget, we are open to listen to requests.

    What steps do town officials need to take in the coming months to ensure the community recovers economically from COVID-19?

    We need to take advantage of grants that are being offered by the state and federal government that have the potential to fund infrastructure that will help Waldoboro now and in the future.

    We have an active Communications and Technology Committee that advises us on current and future technologies and if we can take advantage of funding that will help create jobs that's a good thing.

    We have to continue to be fiscally responsible with the tax rate. One thing that everyone can do is to support our local businesses, keep our money local and support the people who have supported our community.

    Is Waldoboro zoning adequate enough to sustain economic vitality and quality of life?

    The Town just went through their comprehensive plan review in 2018, and the voters just approved zoning changes in November of 2020 those changes included more options for businesses and a quicker permitting process, for smaller projects it allows the planner and code enforcement officer to approve the project if it fits within the ordinance. Our code enforcement officer is receiving more quality of life type complaints, more neighbor complaints that are not regulated by our zoning ordinance.

    The Town has put some of these quality of life questions to the voters before and they have not passed. It is difficult to legislate neighborly behavior. But there are things that the Town should consider especially when it comes to health and safety issues.

    What are your thoughts on town meeting warrant articles 45 and 46 discussing the proposed future uses of the A.D. Gray school land?

    I have faith that the residents of Waldoboro will come out to vote on June 8. I was in favor of pursuing the Memorandum of Understanding with the VOA based on the results of the non binding referendum supporting the sale of AD Gray in November, the 4-1 result gave the Select Board a direction to proceed. I think it is important for the voters to have the facts on both proposals, and cast their vote as they see fit.

    Personally, I would like to have both affordable senior housing and a park. We have alot of seniors who have raised their children here, worked hard, paid their taxes for alot of years and I want them to be able to afford to stay in Waldoboro and remain a part of the community. We need to make sure that as we move younger families in we aren't pushing our seniors out.

    Free Space: Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

    I learn a lot from listening to people, I don’t talk as much as some but when I do have something to say I am not afraid to speak up. I take seriously what Waldoboro has to say, I represent not just my thoughts but those of the people of Waldoboro. The people I talk to at the hardware stores, getting gas or those that stop in the door yard, I listen to everyone, and value their thoughts even if we don’t agree.

    When I ran for Select Board the first time I said I’m not a very good politician because I don’t have a problem saying what needs to be said and that remains true. I am still not a politician, but I am proud of my service to the people of Waldoboro over the last six years.

    I ask for your support for another term. I will work hard for our Town to make it a place that we can all be proud of.